The most prominent in consolidating Sunni orthodoxy, said Jawad, was the brilliant and highly regarded Islamic scholar Ghazali, who died in the year 1111. In several influential books still widely read today, Ghazali declared two long-dead leading Muslim philosophers, Farabi and Ibn Sina, apostates for their unorthodox views on God’s power and the nature of resurrection. Their followers, Ghazali wrote, could be punished with death.
Ghazali’s declaration provided justification to Muslim sultans from the 12th century onward who wished to persecute – even execute – thinkers seen as threats to conservative religious rule. The trend continues today, said Jawad.
Mumbai-based activist and writer Feroze Mithiborwala said essentially the basic argument against the cartoon controversy is that they “mock” and “offend my religious sensibilities” and thus should be banned. The cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, which undoubtedly hurt the feelings of ordinary Muslims, actually required a non-violent response, which would have been far more effective.
On one hand, we have a murder committed by a religious fanatic in the name of blasphemy. On the other hand, there is a secular French tradition of absolute freedom of expression, which includes the right to offend all religions, Mithiborwala added.
He said it’s high time religious people realised one basic truth: every religious text and tradition is ‘offensive, blasphemous and heretical’ to the followers of other sects and religions.